Angiostrongylus cantonensis, also known as rat lungworm, is a type of parasite that causes angiostrongyliasis, which is the most common cause of meningitis. People with a serious infection can go into a coma or die. This parasite has since invaded Hawaii by travelling on its array of hosts.
Hawaii, as well as areas in the Southeastern United States, contains rats that carry this parasite. A study has illustrated that a quarter of the rats that were tested by researchers showed evidence of this parasite.
This same study showed that rat lungworms can be transmitted between mollusks such as snails and slugs to rats and then ultimately to humans.
In humans, it can induce fever, headache, a stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, it can cause meningitis and ultimately result in a coma or death.
The researchers collected more than 170 rats and found the parasite in 39 rats.
They also said that when this parasite gets transmitted to humans it cannot reproduce or grow and will live out its life in the host.
When an animal eats a snail or frog or other crustaceans, such as a shrimp, the animal becomes infected with the parasite and the rat lungworm begins to grow.
The origin of the name is derived from the fact that the rats eat infected snails and when humans come in contact with these rats (via droppings, contamination, etc.) then they humans get infected.
When the infected animal is ingested, the parasite is absorbed into the blood via the intestine and then the parasite enters the brain.
According to researchers, the severity of the infection is dependent on how many larvae are ingested.
The parasite can also enter the human eye which will then require surgery to be removed. Symptoms generally appear between 1 to 3 weeks but in rare cases, they can occur after 6 weeks.
The Center For Disease, Control, And Prevention has stated that there is no treatment for the disease but there are treatments for the symptom.
Although there is no test to diagnose rat lungworm it is possible for doctors to diagnose it through a patient’s exposure history. Their travel history can also be indicative of rat lungworm since they tend to reside in Hawaii, Florida and the Southeastern United States, but they have shown signs of migration.
Researchers and medical experts advise thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables, thoroughly washing your hands, and avoiding the consumption of crustaceans and snails.
If you absolutely have to eat shrimp and snails then make sure they are thoroughly cooked before eating. And also make sure that pets are not around any snails or rats.